Here in Europe the gym equipment market is fragmented across a wide range of suppliers. This is great as it gives us a load of choice and competition in the market is great for innovation and, ultimately, prices – but it can be tricky to pick out which suppliers will have longevity and quality products compared to those who are ‘chancing their arm’ with lower quality merchandise at premium prices, only to disappear or make the refund process difficult.
Two brilliant suppliers we have access to are Rogue Fitness and Bulldog Gear. They both occupy a similar market niche supplying CrossFit inspired strength and conditioning equipment at a fair (note – not cheap, but fair) price backed up by excellent customer service.
These two are both great suppliers and you won’t go wrong with either, but lets have a quick run down of them side by side.
At a glance…
- Two great brands available in the UK selling a similar range of products
- Rogue has a stronger brand image
- Bulldog is UK based and benefits from much lower shipping & handling
- Bulldog therefore undercuts Rogue on price on most products like for like
- Rogue more innovative with new products, but most don’t make it into the Europe store
Rogue have the wider range of Olympic barbells – particularly barbells where they have a whopping 15 (yes, fifteen!) 20kg Olympic barbells available in Europe. This compares to a more focused range of 4 for Bulldog.
Across speciality bars (trap, EZ-curl, safety squat bars, etc) it is very close with broadly similar offerings, but I would give the advantage to Bulldog with a clearer range on their site.
Rogue barbells are well known as an industry standard. For example there are very few useful reviews written about the Bulldog Gear Composite Bushing barbell which is a competitor with the Ohio / Ohio Power Bar simply down to Bulldog having a smaller footprint than Rogue (I’m hoping to get one in soon to do a detailed review once they are back in stock – check back soon 🙂 )
Olympic weight plates
In my experience most people prefer a bumper plate over a cast iron or equivalent metal plate due to aesthetics and the reduced noise / wear and tear on their home gym environment compared to dropping heavy metal plates. The downside comes with some of the thicker plates limiting how much can be put on a barbell – something that can be managed by using the thinner competition bumpers, for example.
If you are interested in bumper plates the offerings between Rogue and Bulldog are similar with both offering a surprisingly wide range offered by both. This is actually a tie as they both offer around 9 product lines for bumper plates.
Unfortunately Bulldog Gear do not offer any metal plate variants at all. This means no cast iron plates, calibrated competition plates or similar. This is unfortunate as they tend to be cheaper than bumpers and would open up a new market for Bulldog Gear in the recreational powerlifter or more budget conscious bodybuilder.
Having used them regularly at another gym, the hybrid bumper plates offered by Bulldog are fantastic, with an excellent fit and finish. They are used regularly with a Strength Shop Black Zinc 2020 bar and they combine to be a great budget set up. They have a nice little bounce when used in regular deadlifts and just feel a little more sympathetic to the environment (both physically and the noise level) when being used.
I own and therefore regularly (or should that be relentlessly!) use Rogue Calibrated Steel plates. I’m very pleased with these and am glad that I own them. I use them on a thicker platform which combines rubber gym matting and 18mm plywood to protect my garage floor so I have no worries of damage if deadlifting or similar.The downside is that – similar to many people – they arrived with some cosmetic damage to the plates. I had to contact customer services and did receive some compensation, but regardless it feels worthy of a mention.
Rigs & Racks
Surprisingly Bulldog Gear have a more varied range than Rogue Fitness here in Europe with a few cracking options for smaller home gyms. Rogue in the USA has a wider range available, but we only get a subset over here.
Overall I would say the designs and features are more similar than they are different, and I have my suspicions that the designers were copying each other’s homework both with their designs and naming conventions!
There are a few areas we can draw a direct comparison between the brands. Rogue have three core ranges:
- Rogue Infinity – 2”x3” box section steel using 5/8” hardware
- Rogue Monster Lite – 3”x3” box section steel using 5/8” hardware
- Rogue Monster – 3”x3” box section steel using 1” hardware
Bulldog Gear have a very similar range:
- Bulldog Series – 50mm x 75mm box section steel using 18mm hardware
- Mammoth Lite Series – 80mm x 80mm box section steel using 18mm hardware
- Mammoth Series – 80mm x 80mm box section steel using 24mm hardware
So the specs are virtually identical between the two manufacturers with Bulldog using the metric equivalent of the Rogue’s imperial measurements. In terms of build quality and materials there is therefore nothing in it between them.
Again Bulldog Gear have a more varied range than Rogue Fitness here in Europe with around 8 options compared to 3 from Rogue. Both manufacturers put out great weight benches however so you can’t go too far wrong with either.
Again the cardio tools offered are broadly similar with each sporting a range of Concept2 rowing machines and air bikes. Bulldog offers a range of spin bikes which Rogue does not, as well curved runners / treadmills which Rogue do not sell in Europe.
This is of course relevant if you’re buying cardio equipment – these items are not modular so you could pick and choose who to buy each item from without putting yourself in a difficult position a few years down the line.
In general Rogue has a wider selection than Bulldog with a number of premium bar collars, more storage solutions and various other sub-niches which are well stocked.
Rogue also has an advantage in that attachments for their rigs and racks occasionally filter through to the Europe store so there tends to be a wider choice of add-ons (for example monolift style j-hooks). That said I find it a bit frustrating in Europe that we do not get the full range of accessories and the ones we do tend to be limited to one or two of the rack lines (e.g. Monster Lite only, or similar) so there is an element of luck as well as planningas to whether you will be able to buy any accessories.
Bulldog have the essentials covered with add ones for storage, dips, various other key areas but the depth of range is shallower. I would like them to offer a monolift style J hook attachment which, to me, is the obvious add on that they are missing from their line up.
Quality and Customer Service
Ultimately both brands are operating in the ‘pro-sumer’ area of the market and you won’t be disappointed with either.
As noted above I had issues with my Rogue calibrated kilo plates which had paint chips and marks on them on arrival. As part of the same order I also received several pairs of the wrong plates (ordered 0.25kg plates, 0.5kg fraction plates arrived). Customer service were very quick to offer up a solution and were friendly to deal with. It is unfortunate that we had to go down that route – but the way they dealt with it was pleasant and inertia free.
Another issue I had was when my Rogue Echo bike developed an incurable screech from the drive belt. I worked with Rogue for quite a while to resolve trying a number of things and exchanging numerous emails and pictures / videos. Ultimately they replaced the bike which was and unexpected but welcome solution to what had become quite a wearisome issue. Again they were pleasant and easy to deal with.
I’ve not had any issues with Bulldog products to comment first hand on their customer service but reading several reports online they are usually friendly and quick to respond. When I was specifying a rack they certainly entertained a number of quote requests and laid out the options available.
More recently I have reached out to them for some guidance on their barbell range but I am yet to hear back.They did send a note saying due to the 2020 Coronavirus issues they would take longer than usual to respond so we can give them the benefit of the doubt for now. It was unfortunate timing however as I ended up missing BOTH barbells I was deciding between as they sold out!
The big differentiator for me is the pricing. Rogue and Bulldog are very much operating in the same space and selling quality equipment to people like you and I. Unfortunately it is simple logistics that makes Rogue so expensive. In their home country of America Rogue is fantastic value – in Europe we need to pay to ship the items from the USA over the Belgium (their European base) and then onwards to the UK or wherever you stay.
This does add significantly to the cost and it really does become a barrier to me buying more of their equipment. Similarly the pricing is a little opaque as shipping and tax is added on during checkout (and is priced in Euros!) One minute you’re looking at a Rogue R3 for under £1,000, then by the time it is shipped and taxed it’s £1,200+.
That said they tend to run a good Black Friday sale on plates which is where I picked up the calibrated kilo plates for a competitive price. Most other retailers in Europe have a far more limited sale in November. Note that their barbells and racks are only on sale sporadically and it is hard to predict – I personally wouldn’t wait until Black Friday if you have a specific rack in mind as there is a good chance it will NOT go on sale in Europe.
Bulldog by comparison are UK based and there simply isn’t the logistical cost of moving equipment from American. This allows them to undercut Rogue in the UK on virtually everything – like for like I found the Bulldog air bike to be around £100 cheaper than the similar Rogue Echo bike. It is the same story with the power racks – Bulldog can afford to undercut Rogue due to the shipping savings.
How important is pricing to you? If you are happy to support the Rogue brand and have the money to spend then you will not be disappointed. Luckily if you have a smaller budget or are less concerned about branding your money will go further within the Bulldog range without any discernible drop in quality.
So Bulldog Gear vs Rogue Fitness can be settled based on your budget and requirements. If you would prefer to spend a bit less and your requirements are for the usual range of home gym equipment (so power racks, barbells, dip bars, bumper plates, or similar) then Bulldog Gear offers all of this at lower prices.
Conversely if you have a bigger budget and are prepared to pay the additional shipping and handling then buying via Rogue opens up a slightly wider selection of accessories and is the more established brand name.
There is a bonus third option… ATX Strength are a similar brand based in Wassenberg, Germany but resold through distributors in each country. As they are sold via distributed I have excluded from this comparison for now. They manufacture the excellent ATX Ram Power Bar and do sell a range of power racks which are similar to Bulldog and Rogue.